While climate change and bio-energy were upper-most in delegates' minds, the rapidly developing crisis in food prices—particularly among developing countries—was being driven by record high oil prices and a continuing demand from a growing world population fuelled by higher income levels.
Rising meat demand
Fred Stephens, president of IFIF, said now that the problem has been identified, industry is "in good shape" to meet the challenge. He said meat production would have to double by 2030 and possibly triple by 2050. "We have arable land available in many of the grain-producing countries and we have the technology that can and should be used more effectively to improve crop yields and the nutritional quality of feed raw materials," he says. Stephens told the meeting that bio-energy was not to blame for the marked increase of grain prices over recent months, although it contributed by some 2-3 percent, based on the U.S. market.
"In recent years China's middle class has grown to about 200 million, close to 15 percent of its population, and its economy by over 10 percent between 2006-07. India's economy has experienced growth of over 8 percent in the same time frame. Reports suggest India's middle class has reached 250 million as well, or about 23 percent of its population.
"The resulting dietary change in these two countries alone, from starch-rich food to protein-rich chicken, beef and pork, has had a major impact on increased feed demand, thus grain demand and prices globally," he adds. "Never in any period have so many people moved out of poverty."
IFIF, he said, believes that in addition to population and income increases, the following points are pertinent to present and future rising food prices as they relate to meat, milk and eggs:
- Land available to agriculture has declined from approximately 0.5 ha to 0.25 ha, challenging the capacity to meet tomorrow’s agricultural demand for land-based protein.
- In addition to land-based protein production, meat protein from fish has grown substantially over the past several years. However, wild fish harvesting, due to significant over-fishing in the world’s oceans, appears unsustainable in terms of meeting increased demand. Therefore aquaculture will need to fill this gap and will add additional pressure on the grain market.
- Bio-energy demand will continue to compete for grain. However, in the view of IFIF, bio-energy demand has had negligible effect on rising food and grain prices globally and therefore meat prices.
- An important—and less discussed—contributor to rising prices is ‘index commodity speculation’ whose investment value in commodity futures has risen from US$25 billion to US$260 billion in the past five years contributing to rising commodity prices.
Specific areas of focus
"To overcome the challenges to sustainable, abundant and affordable food supply will require attention be taken in specific areas which we summarize as PETPolicy, Education and Technology," Stephens says.
Policy: Regulations that may present trade barriers to the efficient exchange of food and feed ingredients need to be reviewed on science-based procedures. A review of present trade regulations is recommended to ensure that impediments are eliminated. Additionally, taxes on food should be reviewed, reduced and eliminated where possible to the benefit of consumers.
Education: The international animal feed industry will continue to work together in its effort to provide expertise to emerging developing nations. IFIF is determined to implement the Codex-negotiated Code on Good Animal Feeding across the industry.
Technology: Investments in technological developments in genetics and nutrition, not excluding GMO-technology, need to be increased significantly and their outputs assessed on scientific basis. The resolution of the current global food crisis requires a decisive technological jump' which can only come about by very substantially increased global and national commitment to agricultural research and development.